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Information not held: A guide to sections 18(e) and (g) of the OIA and sections 17(e) and (g) of the LGOIMA

Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987
Section 2
Section 17
Official Information Act 1982
Section 2
Section 18
Issue date:

Agencies cannot release official information if they do not hold it; and there is no obligation under the official information legislation for them to have to create it.

There are also some types of information an agency may physically hold, but which were never intended to be captured or accessible under the official information regime.

This guide explores some of the issues around whether information is held or not. It explains how the refusal grounds that are relevant in this context (sections 18(e) and (g) of the OIA) work.

It covers:

  • What 'held' means
  • Excluded information
  • Information held by Ministers
  • Information held by former Ministers
  • Information held by employees
  • Creation versus collation
  • Making a reasonable search
  • Keeping a record of the search
  • Consulting the requester
  • The Ombudsman's approach to complaints

The guide includes a step-by-step worksheet, an information held ‘cheat sheet’, template letters for agencies to use, and case studies of actual complaints considered by the Ombudsman.

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